The Woman Outside The Restaurant

The tiny woman peeks from behind a group of towering palms; the fronds a blowsy canopy offering shade from the searing afternoon heat. She is watching and waiting for the right moment. The restaurant patio full of people enjoying a meal, oblivious to the watchful eyes.  So much waste, she muses.

At first glance, the small woman fits in, looks like anyone seated outside a local burger restaurant. At a glance, she possesses a hip, fashion forward style.  The ball cap pulled down low on her forehead, tank top tight exposing thin, muscular, sun-kissed arms, board shorts falling to mid calf.  A pair of bright white tennis shoes, laced together, hang around her neck.  Why would a woman hang sneakers around her neck? At first glance she resembles a beautiful, blessed, and golden California girl.

Look again. The woman darts; quickly she rummages through open garbage bins, tipping discarded food bags, rooting out left overs, tossed scraps.  Carefully collecting discarded bits, she drinks from tossed soft drink containers. Her darkened, vacant eyes scan the bin’s contents. She is ready to scurry off at the first hint of confrontation. The shoes on her feet too large for someone so petite; they hinder her run. A sunken jaw; she is missing teeth.  This is not a blessed California girl. This woman is middle-aged, certainly homeless.

For a few moments, an uneasiness pricks as I eat; I have so much. Compassion twinges.  There is one who lives scuffling hand to mouth. Guilt simmers as I ponder; fear that the woman is any of us, someone’s mother, sister, aunt.  Shame that this country has so much suffering at its seams.